Every quilt tells a story

By: Terry Oparka, | Troy Times | Published August 2, 2017

TROY — The over 160 quilts that will be featured in the “Threads” exhibit at the Troy Historic Village offer a glimpse of history and art pieced together and stitched in textiles. 

The quilts will be exhibited in the Caswell House, the General Store, the parsonage, Old Troy Church, Troy Town Hall and the main building Aug. 7-18 at the village. 

Loraine Campbell, executive director of the Troy Historic Village, said the quilts will be draped on furniture, quilt racks and beds. 

 This Appalachian quilt was made in the 1970s.

This Appalachian quilt was made in the 1970s.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Sewing items and artifacts will also be on display at the General Store. 

Campbell said that five local quilt guilds juried their own work and will have 25 quilts each in the exhibit. 

One memory quilt tells the story of a Chinese immigrant coming to the U.S. in the early 1900s and features a depiction of the Statue of Liberty. 

Another was made by a teacher in the 1800s who collected remnants of her students’ clothing and fashioned it into a quilt. 

“The quilts are beautiful, and the stories are also beautiful,” Campbell said. 

The story of each quilt is in a catalog. 

Rochester Hills resident, curator and appraiser LaVere Webster will display the quilts he and his wife, Zora, have collected from the Civil War era. They will exhibit 42 quilts. 

He said they will show four Van Doren double-weave coverlets. Abram Van Doren lived in a home in Stoney Creek, near what is now Tienken Road in then-Avon Township, now Rochester Hills. 

According to the Rochester Avon Historical Society, “from 1844 until 1851, Van Doren engaged in an active and prosperous weaving trade in Stoney Creek. During that period, he wove ‘Double Rose’ and ‘Double Lily’ design jacquard coverlets his family in New Jersey had woven since the 1830s. Coverlet designs were passed down in a weaving family, and it was rare that two weavers ever wove exactly the same designs.”

“Double-weave coverlets are rather rare,” Webster said. “Very few coverlets were made in Michigan.” 

Webster, who is in his 80s, got his first quilt from his grandmother when he was 12 years old.

 “She took me to her friend’s house when I was 4, where she and her friends were making a butterfly quilt,” he said. His cousin got his grandmother’s butterfly quilt, but he said he finally got a butterfly quilt (not hers) at an auction sale. 

A quilt his wife made depicting Raggedy Ann and Andy, which she had to purchase the rights to make, will also be in the show. 

“Three generations of our family quilts will be in the exhibit,” he said. 

His favorite quilt in his collection is one made in Indiana between 1850 and 1860 that Methodist church families made as a retirement gift for their pastor. 

“Each family made a block,” he said. “It has a front and back.” 

Van Doren said quilts should be stored in acid-free paper in a box. He explained that stores wrap purchases in acid-free paper. If there is wool in the quilt, he advises people to sprinkle a handful of 20 Mule Team Borax on the quilt to keep the moths away. 

Sunlight and fluorescent light fade quilts. 

“I’ve been to a lot of quilt shows,” he said. “I think this (‘Threads’) will be the mother of all quilt shows.” 

Quilting workshops will be offered during the exhibit. 

A workshop called “Quilting Goes Green” will be held 11 a.m.-noon Aug. 3, “Ask the Quilt Ladies” will be held 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 10, and “Creating Plant Dyes” will be held 1-2 p.m. Aug. 17. Registration is not needed.

“Threads” will be open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 7-18, with the exception of Aug. 13, when it will be open noon-4 p.m., and Aug. 17, when it will be open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. 

There is no cost to view the exhibit, but general admission costs apply — $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children ages 6-12, and free for children 6 and younger. However, admission to the village is free Aug. 13. 

The Troy Historic Village is located at 60 W. Wattles Road.